e2i CEO breakfast talk

SIMTech (Singapore Institute of Manufacturing Technology)and e2i (Employment and Employability Institute) co-organised a talk on improving productivity and encouraging innovation, on 19-Feb 2014. Held at the new e2i building, it was an insightful session with many practical tips for local enterprises.

The first speaker from SIMTech mentioned that business strategies can fall under one of the following:
- operational excellence (e.g. McDonald's, Port of Singapore Authority)
- product leadership (e.g. Apple, Osim)
- Customer intimacy (e.g. Home Depot, SIA)

He suggested that businesses can choose one of the strategies above and excel in it. But is that enough in today's fast-moving "flat" world? Look at SIA (Singapore Airlines) for example.

I would think that SIA definitely has operational excellence. Commercial airlines are not the most profitable business to run. According to a Harvard Business Review article in 2010, SIA is one of the industry’s most "cost-effective operators", with costs even lower than most European and American budget carriers. This is despite the fact that SIA is a "full service" airline. 

As for product leadership, I would think SIA has done it right too. It runs flights to many cities in the world and allows for online booking through its website. Its airplanes have world-class facilities and its fleet is always younger than industry average, so that mechanical failures are reduced. 

Customer service excellence or customer intimacy would also be a trademark of SIA. According to HBR article mentioned above, SIA's training includes courses on deportment, etiquette, wine appreciation, and cultural sensitivity. SIA’s cabin crews are also trained to interact with Japanese, Chinese, and American passengers in different ways. Trainees learn to appreciate subtle issues, such as communicating at eye level rather than “talking down” to passengers.

Becoming and maintaining the status of an industry seems to demand the seemingly impossible task of excelling at all the 3 business strategies of operational excellence, product leadership , and customer intimacy.

Many enterprises, especially small ones, are busy daily with fire-fighting. But it's worth the time to think through business strategies, and strive to excel in at least one area.

All the best to us, SMEs! 


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